School holiday fun doesn't have to be costly

Board games are a great inexpensive way to entertain children. Photo by Shutterstock
Board games are a great inexpensive way to entertain children. Photo by Shutterstock

Last week I shared some thoughts on ways to entertain the children during school holidays.

I have decided to continue with the theme this week with a focus on inexpensive fun and even the idea of leaving that door open for children to create their own fun.

Those two words "I'm bored" are a common term used by children - especially during school holidays.

Let's be clear, a bored child is not a bad thing. If we give our children the chance to be bored, we also give them the chance to use their imagination and get creative with their down time.

Sometimes, I think as parents we feel a responsibility to keep our children entertained, but I also think that has become a more recent situation - a bit of a bad habit we seem to have slipped into over the past few decades. I confess I am guilty of this habit.

When I was a child in the late 60s and 70s, those times when there were no structured activities - which was often - were pure gold for a child with an imagination and an adventurous nature. These were the times when you built your forts, went for rides on your bike or scooter, collected insects in a bug catcher and played with your toys.

Somewhere, along the way the concept of bored children was re-interpreted by parents as something that needed to be fixed and so in more recent years we have busied ourselves trying to find solutions to keep our young ones entertained. I'm a parent who has done this on many occasions.

Sure there have been occasions when I have left my children to their own devices, to use there imaginations. The good news is that they found their imaginative feet and forts were built in the lounge room.

But there are many times I have played an active role in entertaining or, at the very least, directing their attention towards fun ideas.

What I have learnt over the years is that staving off childhood boredom does not have to cause a hit to the budget. There are lots of fun things to do that don't cost a cent.

The lounge room fort for example. If the children haven't already thought of it then perhaps this is a creative and safe activity that is well worth suggesting. Let them raid the linen cupboard for blankets or sheets, and allow them to strategically move furniture to set up the perfect space for a fort. This is a great idea for a rainy day.

Cooking cakes, biscuits and even dinner is something fun that could involve children of all ages - with a little supervision.

Believe it or not even the really young ones could get some joy from this. I used to make cupcakes and while the children all wanted to stir the ingredients, they were equally excited to decorate the cakes once they were cooked. A few decorative choices such as sprinkles and chocolate buds were popular options for the task.

And of course the highlight of this activity was the chance to lick the bowl.

Playing board games has always been another hit with my children. The great thing about board games is that there are great options for all ages. Snakes and Ladders, Trouble, Guess Who and Headache were early favourites but games such as Cluedo and Monopoly have stood the test of time well into adulthood.

In fact, our eldest daughter tends to turn into a hardcore property baron the minute we mention pulling out the Monopoly board. My husband and I, and our youngest daughter, are happy to admit defeat once we have been forced to mortgage our last property. As far as we are concerned a quick game is a good game.

However, the competition and negotiations can be intense between our eldest daughter and her brother. The same always applied when the competitive miss could convince her grandfather to take up a Monopoly challenge. Such a challenge often resulted in the game going into the wee small hours when everyone else was tucked up in bed. Defeat was a reality that neither liked to concede.

The above suggestions are great inexpensive activities - except when you are playing Monolopy and you lose all your play money. These are fun options for those rainy days.

However, one of my most memorable outdoor activities, that could keep a youngster interested for hours, was something I stumbled on quite by chance.

My youngest daughter and I were walking to the park one afternoon when we noticed a large, lush patch of clover. She was about eight at the time and loved little adventures so I suggested we go in search of a four leaf clover. The great news was that we found several - enough to make sure that each member of our family of five had a lucky four leaf clover which we laminated so they would last.

We never made it to the park that day and the youngest little miss in our brood had so much fun she asked if we could do it again and again.

Over the years searching for four-leaf clovers became a popular activity in the great outdoors. Even better was the exercise and fresh air we enjoyed while heading out in our neighbourhood in search of the next lucky patch of clovers.

We didn't always reap reward but there were several lucky patches found during our searches and we had loads of quality time together. She is now in her 20s but I still have my laminated lucky four leaf clover. I think the luckiest feature of it is the wonderful fun we had together.

Mumma Jak has three children and is familiar with the challenges of parenthood. She is well aware that every child is different, every day can be different and a parent's approach needs to be different according to the situation at hand. She is happy to say she fumbled through, motivated from the perfect starting point - unconditional love. The good news is that all three of her children have become normal functioning adults.

This story School holiday fun doesn't have to be expensive first appeared on Goulburn Post.